Unplug & Reset: Why I Gave Up Social Media and Why You Should Too

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Social media.  I bantered over giving up social media for a while now.  This idea began circulating through my head because I felt like I was wasting way too much time, and I knew I could be using my time more productively…sound familiar?  First, I would try limiting myself to one hour a day and would only go on feeds before bed.  Other times I completely deleted the apps for days upon time, not having the urge to check.  Yet I somehow always broke this pledge and found myself re-downloading these apps and emerging myself in the world of technology.  F*ck, I would say to myself, back to square one.  This became an endless vicious cycle.

Okay, so why on earth would I want to give up social media in the first place?  Isn’t it human nature for everyone to get distracted and procrastinate every now and then? Yes, 100%.  First, I would like to state that I am not, nor will I ever be “anti-social media.”  Social media is a wonderful thing.  Because of social media, I have learned so much I never would have before about all different facets of our world.  You get to connect with millions of people globally and network, keep up to speed with the latest trends, discover food bloggers, fashion-icons, celebrities, workout gurus, current news, etc.  Who hasn’t spent hours scrolling down the popular page on Instagram drooling over food-porn accounts?  Who hasn’t loved every second of it?  It really isn’t a waste of time if you enjoy doing these things, but I think there is a fine line between pleasure and becoming overly obsessive.  This obsession stems from repeatedly turning to our screens and reaching for our phones because we have a fear of missing out, or from boredom, or for a confidence boost, etc. Whatever it may be, a force of habit is soon created.  As social media picked up popularity and became more and more expansive, I began to spend an increasingly amount of time on it.  I would catch myself frantically searching for my phone to check my accounts as soon as I woke up and before I went to bed, walking to class, between classes, and during class.  I’d scroll before the gym, after the gym, eating a meal, waiting in line, at a red light, at a stop sign, with friends, out for a night, on a date with my boyfriend.  Studying, writing, reading.  The list is endless, social media is everywhere!  Writing this, it sounds so absurd yet has become such a norm.  This is a plague in society that will only continue to grow.

It wasn’t until I got back from visiting the beautiful, white sandy beaches of Tulum, Mexico that it dawned on me: social media can kind of suck…I won’t deny the fact that I didn’t use social media while on vacation because I certainly did, and I won’t deny that social media doesn’t have benefits regardless of your purpose of use/location.  However, in Mexico, I used it A LOT less.  The Wi-Fi service in Tulum wasn’t great and it didn’t help that I was international, yet it didn’t really seem to affect me negatively.  I observed the locals around me of all ages enjoying their beer of choice, hanging out on the beach, laughing, talking, and cell-phone free.  They were not publicizing their breathtaking ocean view, but truly enjoying everything mother nature has to offer, along with the warmth of their company.  It was all about the experience.  I’m sure not everyone is like this in Tulum, but in life I think it only takes one instance, encounter, or idea for something to really click in your mind, and the rest is history.

Fast forward to two weeks back in the States, I decided to take a break from social media for one month – a full 30 days.  This would be my “detox”.  I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.  I never used Twitter, and rarely checked my Tumblr on a regular basis, so I determined these three popular feeds to be sufficient enough. Two weeks into my detox my boyfriend and I went on a run downtown.  While he was getting us water after we finished, I was sitting on a bench looking down at my phone.  An older man next to me said, “You know they say you can’t survive without your phone once it goes dead.”  I looked at him, smiled, and told him I had given up social media, and really only used my phone for basics like texting, calling, and music.  Another man overheard our conversation and said, “God bless you, it is destroying our society.”

This altered my perspective and gave my detox more meaning: a purpose.  It is destroying our society by the way we use it, not the physical application itself.  We have turned such innovative, beneficial platforms into something destructive.  Ever feel worse after clicking through Snapchat’s?  Feel anxious or tense?  How about anger or jealousy because someone is somewhere you want to be, or doing something that you want to do.  Are they really having fun, or painting a perfect picture to appear that way?  Does disappointment sweep over you when you don’t get the amount of likes you had hoped for?  Or when a certain someone didn’t tap their finger twice on your newest Instagram post?  We have all sent a picture to a friend saying “Do you like this edit…how about this one?” Or is this “Gram-able.”  What about the classic “When is the PERFECT time to post?”  Instead of inquiring all of the former questions, we should really come to ask ourselves this: why do we even feel the need to edit in the first place or post our every move?  Do our 700+ followers really need to know we are at X spot for lunch or just went out to Y location?  We are distorting our true image and happenings every time. Why do we do this?  It is a perplexing question to ask, and it is even more thought-provoking to be able to craft an authentic, truthful answer.

I’m not writing this for bragging rights, or being able to say I went 30 days straight without sending one Snap, liking one picture on Instagram, or reading an article posted on Facebook.  No, not quite.  I did this as a challenge for myself and myself only.  I wanted to do an experiment – trial and error.  What would my life be like without social media for 30 days?  What would I gain?  What would I lose?  How would my outlook change?  First, I lost only negatives and gained positives.  I lost anxiety, envy, and a few apps on my cell phone.  I gained time, clarity, understanding, humility, a new position, a fresh attitude, and storage on my phone.  I became more present.  I created new habits and swept away old.  After about a week or so into the 30 days, I didn’t even think twice about checking my accounts.  To be honest, I completely forgot about them as a whole.  I used my time in a different way by doing other things I enjoyed that I didn’t always get to do.

When I told my friends about my self-challenge some said I was crazy – “Why are you doing this to yourself” – they would say.  Everything I have observed and explained above is precisely why.  I believe everyone at some point should unplug & reset.  It doesn’t have to be for a full month.  Try a week, or only allow yourself to check for an hour once a day.  Set limits, create restraints.  See how much you gain and how little you lose.  You may be surprised after all is said and done your own personal social media “detox” may change your entire stance.  Like I said before, I don’t dislike social media, and will continue to use it in moderation because of all of the benefits it supplies.  However, I won’t judge my worth off of the amount of likes I get on a picture, I won’t sit scrolling on my phone while I’m with my friends or out to dinner with my parents.  I don’t need to use Snapchat to document that killer cardio class I just crushed or score I got on an exam.  I don’t need to go to a cool, hip restaurant in the city JUST to take an “artsy” picture of that mouth-watering, healthy, gluten-free avocado toast.  Instead, I can enjoy every savory bite.  If you do decide to take a break from social media, you won’t regret it!  If you are on the fence, ask yourself this: Did I gain satisfaction from the action/person/place, OR satisfaction from the post of the action/person/or place?  There is a very thin line between the two.  If you answer to the latter, then maybe your own personal detox is closer in your future then you have anticipated.

***This is my own experiment, sharing my own personal opinion.  I don’t expect everyone to suddenly quit social media for good.  I won’t judge anyone who loves every bit of it.  At the end of the day I want to share my own personal experience and hope that my words will create a ripple effect into the life of at least one person***

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